Families, communities, and nations are strengthened when individuals understand that death is as much a part of the mortal experience as is birth. We are also strengthened by the knowledge that mortal life – the time that we live on earth – is a very small part of our overall life. We all need to know that we lived before we were born on this earth and we will live after we die. We need to know that both birth and death are important parts of God’s plan for us.
As my family is in the midst of mourning the death of my older brother, I thought about how my grandchildren are dealing with it. I hope that they understand God’s plan for the happiness of His children. I hope that they have a basic knowledge of life before mortality and life after mortality. I hope that they understand that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ and His Resurrection, we will all be resurrected. I hope that they understand that the body that is laid in the grave will be reunited with the spirit to become a spiritual body that will never die again.
I hope that my grandchildren have watched the aging process in my brother and that they recognized that his time on earth was short. As my brother was more like a grandfather to my children and a great-grandfather to their children, I feel certain that his death will be far more meaningful for them than that of other uncles would be. I hope that there were discussions in their homes about the approaching death and what it would mean.
I am also concerned about the grandchildren in one branch of my family. They have been exposed to more deaths in a short period of time than most people are on a regular basis. They lost their great-grandmother just a few years ago. They lost their grandmother in December 2016 and a favorite cousin in February 2017. Now they lost one of their adopted great-grandfathers. In addition to the deaths of all these loved ones, the family has lost several pets. Death seems to have been a regular visitor to their household.
It is important for parents and other loved ones to be honest with children about the approaching death of loved ones. I appreciate the openness of my brother and his family in keeping the extended family alerted to his health conditions. We have known that his life was ending for several weeks and have had the opportunity to prepare ourselves for the death. Even though the death of a loved one is difficult any time, it helps to have time to prepare for it. Monday morning my niece sent a message to the family that his death was near. I read it just minutes before I received notice of his death and was grateful for the few moments of advance notice.
Since death is an important part of our mortal experience, we are wise if we discuss it with our children. These discussions can do much to strengthen the rising generation and thus strengthen families, communities, and nations.